I stand on the roof of our building, in my bare feet. It is 7:30 am; the sun begins to shatter the clouds in the sky. My ears are becoming accustomed to the mosque prayers. Today the prayers will go on all day because it is Iddi (Eid al-Adha), the celebration of the Muslim people who have finished their pilgrimage to Mecca.
The imam’s voice echoes. The words unclear as the prayers crackle through the loudspeaker reaching every inch of this seaside village. Or perhaps the words only seem unclear to me because I do not know what they mean. It is not my language. It is not my religion. But, right now I am a part of this village and in Lamu one must grow to accept the Muslim religion.
No one works today. No children go to school. It is like Christmas in the U.S. I am going to Khadija’s home, I feel honored to have been invited into her home for such a sacred, celebratory, family day. I take my final glace on the town from rooftop; everything looks like it does any other day. But then I look more closely and I see more smoke than I normally do. Families are lighting fires for the slaughtering of a goat. This is because Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son for god but god saved him and had him slaughter a goat instead. I know this much. And I know that this day is to celebrate the people who have gone on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia which is done by Muslims worldwide. I am off to explore the day.
Three little girls dressed in shimmering dresses hold petite purses and scurried around the corner as I opened my door to head to Khadija’s home. Their eyes are mounted with eyeliner making them look wide. The eyeliner also makes their faces look more womanly, as if a woman’s head has been placed on a child’s tiny body. Their fingers, slender, are enveloped in flower designs: henna tattoos. I had never seen the little girls so dressed up in Lamu. I saw that this holiday is a lot more than an excuse for the town to take the day off from work to slaughter a goat.
Khadija is dressed differently today, too. She wears a black and white bui bui, beachy looking, not the same tidy black bui bui that she wears to the Fort each day.
I sat on a green couch on the second floor of Khadija’s home. Children ran up the stairs all morning and the pitter-patter, pitter-patter of their footsteps played a melody that I loved. And when they arrived their hands extended towards Khadija, asking for “pesa,” money. On this holiday the little children dress up in their best clothes and go to all of the homes in town. At each home they are given money. It is a Muslim tradition to give away money. One of Khadija’s niece’s explains to me that by giving money to children they are cleansing themselves.
No goat is slaughtered in this home but a large feast is set before us for lunch. Everyone in Khadija’s family joins. I truly feel welcomed and apart of this Muslim holiday even though I am not of their religion
I talk with Khadija’s niece for a long time. The pink gems fill the neckline of her black bui bui. We talk about her school, Lamu Girls Secondary School. We laugh about her new strict headmistress who I met last week. I ask her about Islam, she goes through the 5 daily prayers with me, explaining each. Our conversation is comfortable. She explains that she wants to go to college to be a doctor. So many kids here want to be doctors. But I am less interested in the profession she pursues because I know that she is going to enter into the working world someday. So I get to the nitty gritty religion question: I ask her if she will always be a Muslim. It is a blunt question, I am hesitant to ask it. But I do. And she responds without hesitation but with squinting eyes which makes me think she is thinking hard about her answer. “Yes, I think so. I was born a Muslim. I mean to say you never know but I think I will be.” She has modern dreams but her religion doesn’t seem to be slipping away anytime soon.